A fraudster who splashed out nearly £38,000 on her company’s debit card has been spared jail – because the judge “hates sending women to prison”.
Office manager Sophie Franklin, 30, was given a suspended sentence by Judge Owen Davies QC (above), just days after a different judge came under fire for telling an Oxford student who had stabbed her boyfriend that she might be ‘too talented’ to go to prison.
Franklin used the Circle Square Agency debit card to spend thousands on designer clothes, make-up, and sunglasses for her and her friends.
She spent £7,000 on taxis and more than £14,000 on mobile phones and bills between January 2014 and August 2016 while working for the agency, based in Bermondsey, south east London.
She also splashed more than £1,500 on flights and hotels abroad including to Rome, St Lucia and Hong Kong.
Franklin also spent money on Apple products, items from John Lewis and theatre tickets – all at the company’s expense.
Her fraud only came to light after she left for a new job and her replacement began to cross check and audit invoices Franklin had been responsible for.
Inner London Crown Court heard the total loss to the company, including the cost of the audit, was £37,997.
She was jailed for 18 months, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to one count of fraud.
After taking the plea at a previous hearing Judge Davies QC told her: “I hate sending to prison women who have not been to prison before and who have been convicted for the first time of a criminal offence.
“It seems to me that £38,000 is a lot of money and as demonstrated to me today is not uncommon.
“It should not be possible to buy yourself out of an offence. It seems to me it would be difficult for me to suspend the sentence.
“I think it is an offence that crosses the custody threshold, the question is if that should be immediate or not.”
As office manager she was responsible for booking travel an accommodation for staff, ordering stationary and authorising expenses.
The court was told the fraud and ‘breach of trust and responsibility’ had a ‘substantial’ financial impact on the company.
Gerard Renouf, prosecuting, said: “The offence is sophisticated in nature as there had been significant movement of paperwork to cover her tracks.”
The court heard she has now paid back just over £34,000 to her old employer but had lost her full time job.
Since her last hearing she has been working part-time in several jobs including as a temporary admin assistant and a waitress.
Paul Renteurs, in mitigation, said there was “genuine remorse” from his client and that she wanted “to put right the wrong she had done”.
Sentencing Franklin, Judge Davies QC, told her the offence “was a very serious matter” and the cash appropriated was a large amount of money.
The Judge said it was to her credit that she has been able to repay £32,000 back to the firm since her scam was uncovered.
He said: “I hope this the last time you will appear before the criminal court. I perceive you have learnt a lesson and become a lot more mature since these fraudulent transactions.”
Judge Davies QC said “nothing would be achieved at all” with a custodial sentence.
He said: “The punitive effect should not be the incarceration of a woman of nearly 31.
“She should be out in the community where you belong, expunging your crime by unpaid work.”
Franklin, of Basildon, Essex, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment suspended for two years for one count of fraud.
She was also ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work and to pay back the final sum in compensation to her former employer.
Top pic: Grab